Back in the day when I used to wear real shoes and I only had one child, I would stretch before I went running. But then I stopped. I’m not really sure why. Did I read something about stretching not being a big deal? Did I just decide it wasn’t worth the time? Or was it something that happened so gradually that I slowly forgot about it? I haven’t a clue. But it doesn’t really matter, anyway. If current scientific studies can be believed, stretching (of the static “hold this pose for 20 seconds” variety) does not necessarily keep runners from getting injured, as has long been believed. It doesn’t do any damage, but it doesn’t do any good either. In the study, which pitted a group of stretching runners against a group of non-stretching runners, the injury rates for both groups over a 3 month period were virtually identical, at 16%.
The thing that did cause an uptick in injury was a sudden change in training routine. However, the authors neglect to mention what a “sudden change” consists of, and I for one am confused. Is changing your rotation around the park from counterclockwise to clockwise a “sudden change”? Or increasing your mileage substantially in one week? Or switching to FiveFingers one day and never putting on a conventional running shoe again? I feel like I’ve made many, many sudden changes in my routine, so I’ve probably just dodged many, many bullets. Knock on wood that I will continue to be so blessed.
And the other thing I wonder about is post-run stretching, which wasn’t covered in this study. I don’t always have time to stretch after a run, and sometimes my legs do feel tight during the day. Every now and then I’ll take a minute to stretch them out a bit, just for comfort, but I’m curious about whether or not it is actually harmful for me to not stretch. Because if it is harmful to skip that step, then for goodness sake, I will take the time.